In the 95th millennia of recorded time, the Nirvanian branch of the galaxy was developed. To expand the boundaries of their civilization, they sent explorers to discover routes to nearby galactic arms. Most of them never returned. This is the story of Gimish, who came to Earth in the days of the Pharaohs.
The water rippled, and she rose up, tall, taut and naked. She paused a moment, flinging the water from her head, the starlight dancing over her wet hair. The chartreuse lights of the distant city glimmered on her cheek, across her rounded shoulder and the notch of her hip, then down over her rounded buttocks and the firm muscles of her thigh. With three quick steps, her long legs skipped through the water to the sand.
She grasped the towel from the lounge and, pressing it to her face, walked by instinct up the path. When she lowered it, I was blocking her way.
“You!” she hissed, her face knotted in fury. “I’ve had enough grief from you!”
Although my insides burned, I smiled and caught her elbow, drawing her to me. The wadded towel hit me with the force of her fists as she brushed past and scurried up the trail.
My hands held the cloth to my face, letting the wetness from her body flow into my nostrils and moisten my cheeks.
I brought it down against my lips, my neck, and then my chest. I held it there, letting the water soak into my shirt.
“You bastard!” she shouted.
She was on the veranda, surrounded by an aura of light like a goddess emerging from a star.
“Gimish, why do it? Did you even think about us?” she shouted into the darkness.
The door slammed. She was gone. My ears perked; I held my breath and listened for the lock. One, two, three…ten seconds—still no click.
I threw the towel over my shoulders. Like a defeated boxer staggering to his corner, I climbed the stairs and went inside.
I recalled that night, staring at a page, mostly blank and intentionally so. The scant words prompted me to relive it, for the memory was intended to bring me to safety, to be my life raft, and though urgent voices called me, I lingered and remembered her standing by the bedroom doorway.
She waited, leg bent, flexing her rounded ass and curling her toes downward as she cast her chin back over her shoulder, and her lioness eyes coaxed me on.
I embraced her from behind, wrapped my arms around her. Hands caressing her breasts, I nuzzled my mouth on her neck, stimulated it with a soft brush of my lips.
She reached back, wove her fingers into my hair and tugged me to her bed. She pulled my head close, her hot breath heavy and rapid in my ear as I lifted her, our stomachs kissing, her heat flowing into my groin, filling me with ecstasy.
Afterward she stroked my chest, long and slow, with the edges of her fingernails.
Her first words came deadpan, droning like an actuary, “Why fly into the void? No one—not one—has returned.”
Her voice gained strength as if the power of the universe flowed through her. She pulled my head to hers and pushed her lips against mine so that they vibrated together with every syllable she spoke.
“Probability, the Tyrant of Fate, has declared you will fail,” she said, “but I stand against him, and I fight him. I’ll fight him with the smell of my hair. I’ll fight him with the taste of my lips, with my fingers digging into your back, and I’ll fight him with my moan and the fire that I’ve sent through you.
“Gimish, when he pounds at your door, you remember this night and how sweet it was.” She took my hand and traced it over her thigh and, in a voice husky with determination, said, “You remember, and you fight him. You beat him, and you return home.”
Her words came true. Probability, the ruler of numbers, like God Almighty, had come to claim my life
His plan shattered, McClendon struggled, opening and closing his mouth without saying a word, then as if to jumpstart his brain, he cleared his throat and said, “We found an abandoned Cadillac on the Paiute Reservation…”
McClendon corrected, “The Paiute Police found an abandoned Cadillac with a body in the trunk…”
Stephanie gasped. “What color? The car, what color?”
“Black,” Lightfoot answered and waited for her to explain.
“Oh my god,” she blurted and then told of the road rage encounter between Janet and the black Cadillac. They asked and asked again, a full hour of it, until they were satisfied that she couldn’t give them more, then McClendon moved on.
“We have some photos of personal possessions, clothes, shoes, etc. We’d like you to ID them, if you can.”
“I’m a nurse,” Stephanie said. “I’ve seen bodies before. Bodies DOA in the emergency room: gun-shot victims, beatings, chainsaw accidents, a motorcyclist’s skull split in half, his brain hanging out. You don’t have to spare me photos.”
McClendon looked off into space. “No use to look at the remains. Bits and pieces, looks like animals got to her.”
“But you said the body was in the trunk,” Stephanie reminded him.
“Yeah,” Lightfoot said, voice moaning low, “animals got to her.”
The room began to sway. How foolish, she thought, gun-shot victims, beatings, chainsaws—the voice inside her head was echoing and re-echoing—motorcyclist’s skull split in half, his brain hanging out. The victims flashed through her mind, vivid as when they rolled into the emergency room. She felt her stomach lurch, this time everything contracting at once. Her eyes widened as she jerked her head from side to side, looking for a cup, the garbage can, anything.
With a sign, Captain Lightfoot turned his hat over like a bowl and handed it to her.
The observers saw it as the reflection of the torch, but the contestants saw it as a power source leaking up from the Earth’s strata like luminescent oil.
Ahmose was closer and sprinted for it. Exalted chose to deflect his opponent and thrust his arm into the thick air, his hand aimed for the spot. A dark shadow, something darker than the absence of light, shot from him to the fissure. The glow dulled. Ahmose, running at full stride, swung his staff up overhead like a lance. The darkness peeled back; the fissure brightened. Then Ahmose in his gorilla stance was standing over it, and a trickle of fluorescence flowed to each of his feet, and the glow intensified.
Exalted grunted a curse, a hex, a hope to block the power from his rival, and then stretched his arm toward Ahmose, his fist coming and coming as if his arm were elastic. His hand opened, his fingers blossomed outward, still coming. Suddenly his arm snapped back and hid itself inside his tunic. At the same moment, his other arm shot down from over his head and slammed his walking cane to the floor. The rod vibrated, shivered, and slid forward over the eye of Horace. Gaining speed, it took the form of a cobra, except it was black and empty of light as if it were a cut from the absence of matter.
Watching askance, Ahmose saw lines of power going between the viper and the Exalted. In no more than an instant, the cobra was well into neutral territory and headed for the Bedouin sector. The audience murmured their approval. Then Ahmose acted. His response was slow, as if to tempt the adversary’s reptile to come on. He stooped and laid his staff on the floor and, with a gentle push, sent it gliding toward its opponent. It began to slither, taking the color and form of a Gaboon viper. They met at the boundary of the Bedouin sector. The cobra grasped Ahmose’s viper by its midsection and lifted it into the air.
Exalted smiled sardonically. “This is reasonable,” he whispered toward Pharaoh, “considering the amateurism of the opposition. I am surprised they made a show at all.” He puffed his chest out and gyrated his arms, whirling his sleeves and spinning out dramatic flashes of light, all a show of his majesty.
But Pharaoh felt his bowels sinking. Around him, the room swayed like branches of trees, and a wind whistled, whispered, and shifted overhead.
Exalted’s display sputtered when, instead of eating its adversary, the cobra carried its victim alive, and unharmed, deep into Egyptian territory.
This is dangerous, Pharaoh thought, and his hair stood on end, and his skin pimpled icy cold.
Matt could see the forerunners stopping, some bending to gather stones. Others already menaced, clutching large rocks. They looked here and there for advantageous positions to throw from. As Matt approached, they began to shout and point. Then they froze, each poised with rocks held high. The brutish guards raised hands in warning, threatening any who might throw too soon.
“I am going to die,” Emil whimpered in English.
Then the guards halted. They dragged Matt forward and, without speaking, pointed to a clearing in front of a cliff face.
There was no way to escape.
Matt cursed himself for not attempting to break away earlier. They shoved him, and he stumbled and fell, crashing his left knee hard against a rock, the raw flesh oozing through a tear in his pant leg.
My whole body will soon feel like that, he thought. In blind terror, he lurched back to his feet. His only hope was to persuade them to abandon their mission. He looked from face to face for a sign of pity and saw only mindlessness. He saw hate and anger. He saw the sadistic. And some eyes begged for him to turn his stare away, to lessen their guilt. Matt prepared to appeal, in the hope those few might become brave.